Surviving Step 2 CK
Step 2 CK exam – April 11,2017
USMLE Step 2CK score – 275
USMLE Step 1 score – 271
I may be new to many of you. I am a government official working under Ministry Of Health, Government of Nepal. I’m writing this with a hope of making you all believe that “If I can do good, you can do it even better” and vice versa. I have named this article “Surviving Step 2 CK” because during the course of its preparation, I think, my life was like that of in a survival mode, roughly speaking.
If you have read my step 1 experience, I want to assure you that this is going to be shorter than that. Partly because the study materials for Step 2CK are less diverse than that of step 1 and partly because I don’t want to hypnotize anymore. I started my preparation for CK with the book named ”Step-up to Medicine”. Many people I talked to and many experiences I had read suggested MTB2 for medicine and MTB3 for other subjects like pediatrics, surgery, OB/GYN. I bought those books as well. Actually, I began with MTB2 for medicine and instantly realized that it was not my type of book. I didn’t have that bulletproof jacket to bear all those bullets styled points of MTB2. I think I was able to read only initial few pages of that book and was soon searching for its alternative. “Step-Up” was a nice alternative I think. It’s written in more of the explanatory way and reading it was a smoother process. Took almost 1 month to finish it. Please, don’t get scared with the time I took for it. I was working at the government hospital and it was so for the most of my preparation. So some days I could study well and some days weren’t that good. Combining job with the study wasn’t very easy, I think.
After Step-Up, I subscribed to UW for 6 months. There were 4 or 5 days remaining in the subscription when I took the exam. If, for step 1, First aid and UW were the holy sources; for step 2, UW is both. Many of you in the beginning phase of your preparation may find it difficult to accept this fact and I also didn’t realize that initially. Is it true? Are you kidding me? Only UW and no books? Yes, it is true. I am not kidding and books have a minor role. I think I didn’t remember a thing from Step-Up but the greatest help was it made my transition to the UW easier and smoother. Understand UW very well. Don’t just read it for the sake of reading. The tables/charts in UW are like the pages of first aid for Step 1. I mean each and every word there is for the purpose. Simply cramming up only won’t help you. You need to understand those and then if needed memorize them. But yes, there are a few topics which you have to just mug up. There is not much point in wasting your time understanding the developmental milestones of a child and screening/vaccination guidelines age and evaluation of Pap smear of the female of age 23 and 26. But yes there is some logic behind it.
Whatever you don’t understand from UW, consult UpToDate for that. Both the Google and Wikipedia for the step 2 is UpToDate. I think most of the things given in UW are derivatives of the things that are already available in UpToDate. You can’t go through all of UpToDate. It is very detailed. So, consult UpToDate for topics which are difficult to comprehend from UW and you can also consult it for topics which are not given in UW. Would you believe it if I said many sentences given in UW seem to be exact copies of UpToDate?
And yes, prepare the notes from UW from the beginning. I had made brief notes of volatile things and things that were added from UpToDate. It was brief because I did revision from UW online on my laptop itself. Some people find reading from the notes/notebooks easier, so if you have time you can make detailed notes as well. I took photos of all the UW tables/algorithms/charts and I used to go through them whenever I got time like while going to my gym and while traveling. It helped me consolidate the things given there. I can’t overemphasize the importance of those tables/charts. Very important and they are many.
I also did CMS forms for most of the medicine, OB/GYN, Psychiatry and few for surgery. If you have time go through all of them. If you don’t have time, go through psychiatry and OB/GYN at least. I also did some topics from UW-3 like portions of cardiology, psychiatry, and biostat, also do “Biostat Review” from step 1 and those portions of “First Aid for Step 1”. Actually, First Aid for step 1 helps a lot for step 2. Many topics are related and while doing 1st round of UW, I got many many questions right because of knowledge of step 1. So, I think, preparing for step 1 before step 2 helps very significantly. I don’t know how much is the impact of taking step 2 CK first has on step 1 exam, but I am very sure that taking step 1 before step 2 has the big impact on step 2. There were many topics which I studied from “First Aid for Step 1″ for my CK exam. I read MTB3 rapidly for peds, OB/GYN, and surgery. I think I completed those within 1 week. I don’t know how useful it was but I did it because everybody else was doing it. I had read the UW total of 2 times from laptop and my short UW notes once.
During the last month before my exam, I took NBME-4, 6, 7. NBME-4 and 6 were good, 7 was Demoralizing. If you have a crush on your friend’s girlfriend and you want your friend to break up with her, ask him to take NBME-7. Don’t get demoralized with NBME-7, my friends. It is very ..hmm…what should I say…idiotic or you can call it stupid. Yes, it is hard but it’s weirder than it’s hard. Exam questions were not in any way like that. Instead, the exam was closer to UWSA-2 for me.
I did UWSA-1 online around 8 days prior and got 288. Yes…I also couldn’t believe it that’s why I had to pay another 35$ for UWSA-2. It was 273 or 4. The exam was close to UWSA-2.
Friends, practice time management very well. The resources for step 2 CK may be less than step 1, but the exam was harder, that is what I felt. Time was very tight. On a good block, I finished 3 minutes earlier and within that, I had to review 8 or 9 questions which I had marked. It was not a good feeling. I remember making some very silly errors and I think time pressure contributed significantly to it. Believe me, in every block you will get 7 or 8 or 9 very confusing questions and that makes it difficult. The topics of the questions are not new, even the options are not new (most of them). What makes them difficult is the very twisted way of asking questions and the confusion between two options. If you think that you have understood the question and you are confused among two options in that question, just pick one option, mark it and move to another question, review it at last. Don’t lose much time on it. In the exam, it may be very tempting that reading the question once again may help you clear your confusion among two options. Do so only if you have not understood the question properly or the options properly. If you think you have understood the questions and options but you are still confused, pick one and move on.
Many times during preparation, I used to feel so blank. I used to think I don’t know anything and some days were frustrating and depressing. Avoid those things/FB posts/persons who make you feel yourself inadequate, no matter whoever they are.
Friends, the preparation time was not easy and I think it won’t be very easy for many of you. It is very difficult to focus on your studies when many of your friends are busy talking about Messi and Ronaldo and measuring how much cranberry juice to add to the whiskey and making plans for a trekking and when there are so many responsibilities towards your family. But I believe, “if you want to have what other don’t have, you need to do what others can’t do.”
All the best.
And one more thing, sleep well, exercise regularly and don’t let yourself down.
Dr. Ashok Chaudhary.
Article published with permission from the author.
Image designing by Arnab Mukherjee.
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